According to the Telegraph newspaper, trends in the hotel industry for 2016 included upping the ante on in-house dining, attracting millennials, a focus on wellness and the cache of exclusivity. But how does meeting these trends, as well as delivering on guest expectations and the ongoing demand for eco-consciousness, impact hotel amenity sourcing? And what are hoteliers expecting for 2017? We spoke with industry executives from across Canada about their top considerations when sourcing amenities and discovered an affinity towards local products is leading the way.
Adopting a locavore perspective is a huge trend where it concerns consumer spending habits and lodging is no exception. For Montreal-based Groupe Germain, offering the local amenities guests want can also help create a memorable stay. “Promoting locally sourced products, designers and artists is part of our philosophy,” says Julie Tremblay, national public relations manager for Groupe Germain Hotels, adding this can help guests feel even more immersed in a city. “If we do not find a local product that suits our needs, we will look elsewhere [but] by offering guests local products and by exposing them to local brands during their stay at the hotel, it becomes part of the experience.
“The main criteria when sourcing amenities is quality,” Tremblay continues, “then we look at costs, shipping and logistical considerations.” Groupe Germain’s boutique properties strive for a good balance between quality and local product, “not only because of a cost perspective, but because it is part of our values.” It’s about the details, she says, adding “design being at the heart of our properties, aesthetics are also very important in the final choices we make.”
Garth W. Ruggiero, Purchasing director for Quebec-based Atlific Hotels, agrees. He constantly seeks ways to combine quality and cost — especially when it comes to attracting guests in a highly curated world where image is king. “We are all looking for the ideal [amenities] line that has that X-factor,” he says, adding “of course this will all be based on the service level provided by the individual hotel.”
“Certainly, you want your hotel’s amenity package to look good on the vanity,” says Aodhan T. Sheahan, vice-president of Operations with MasterBuilt Hotels in Calgary. “The look is a part of what you’re selling to guests and it forms part of their perception of your property.” But the actual experience of using the product is also important, he says, and must align with the image presented. Ruggiero adds not all brands can afford “the look” and must choose more cost-effective lines.
While there can be almost no limit to what a property might pay at the highest end of the market, most hotel amenities range between $1.50 and $3.50 per occupied room, or from $0.21 up to $0.90 per item, depending on the quality of offering and portion size. “To provide the best total value proposition to the guest, it’s necessary to have a firm handle on the price positioning of your hotel and the expectations of the guests paying that price,” Sheahan says. “Amenities, and virtually everything else the hotel offers, must be tailored to that positioning to achieve the goal of great guest satisfaction and reasonable profitability for owners.”
With upscale hotels, there is a consumer demand for a wide array of products, while mid-scale property consumers “are generally satisfied with the basic required amenities and supplement with their own products,” says Sheahan. When asked how else larger franchise hotel groups differ in their amenity offering from smaller, boutique hotels, he says it has to do with what guests expect. The larger brands “trend towards mainstream, broadly available or custom amenity lines in order to provide guests with a consistent experience everywhere it operates,” whereas boutique hotels “can craft all aspects of the guest experience to a particular location and price point.”
“We always try to provide something to the guest that they cannot get elsewhere,” says Ruggiero. Although, sometimes “it is best to use a branded product in an independent location so guests get the feeling that not everything is unknown.” There is a sense of comfort, he says, when guests see recognizable brands on the amenity tray. He adds that, from a boutique property’s standpoint, “[hoteliers] try to select a higher-end line of product as they want to set themselves apart from the rest.”
This flexibility around offerings is likely where the industry is trending today, Ruggiero says. When it comes to refreshing or renewing amenity brands, “you can ask five people and get five different responses.” Some change the amenity offerings as hotel ownership changes, while others change based on demographics — discovering millennials are seeking different products from Gen X consumers. He believes a hotel’s amenity package should be changed every few years to stay current with market demand.
Sheahan agrees that “changing amenities helps provide a sense of progression or renewal to guests,” but he points out that “brands with good guest perception around amenities will often change things carefully in areas such as packaging or scent rather than a whole-scale line change.”
“Loyalty is important,” says Tremblay. “Over the years, we forged strong relationships with the suppliers we collaborate with. In that sense, [our] amenities brands do not change very often, as long as the quality and the demand are still present.” Most of the products carried by Groupe Germain feature the name of the hotel as well as the name of the given brand.
But there’s more to the locavore trend than creating cache in the minds of consumers. “Being a Canadian-based company, it would make sense [to] run specific lines with a Canadian manufacturer,” says Ruggiero, explaining that shipping costs also influence a hotel’s amenities choice, especially when products are being ordered monthly. Fluctuating U.S. currency exchange rates also play an important role in the selection, as do delivery times, which he notes can be expedited when ordering locally. Ruggiero says supplying local products also meets Atlific’s eco-friendly considerations. “It’s all about environmental stewardship, [reducing] the carbon footprint, local manufacturing [and] biodegradable packaging.”
MasterBuilt Hotels uses an environmentally friendly line of products across its Canadian Microtel properties. “Environmental sustainability is a pillar of our company,” says Sheahan. “Using amenities that are friendly to groundwater, not tested on animals and fully biodegradable is one small part of that.”
Wastage is another factor affecting both environmental standards and amenity costs. Ruggiero points out that a hotel with 120 rooms at 73 per cent occupancy will most likely see approximately 61,320 bars of soap, 30,660 plastic bottles and 5,750 ounces of liquid go unused each year. By utilizing the Hotel Recycling Program from Clean the World Foundation, Atlific is able to repurpose its unused product by donating it to third-world or underprivileged areas for use in comprehensive water sanitation and hygiene projects. Programs such as those used by MasterBuilt and Atlific help companies meet their social-responsibility goals as well as connect with guests who increasingly rank sustainability among their own considerations when booking accommodation.
Meeting guest expectations is an ongoing challenge for large-scale hotel chains and boutique properties alike.
Whether it’s sustainable or locally produced, “a leisure guest who may have shopped multiple hotels online for the best rate [at] mid-market properties doesn’t want to pay for premium spa amenities generally speaking,” says Sheahan. Whereas a guest staying at a boutique or upscale lifestyle-brand hotel “likely expects these products and at some level understands [they are] part of the experience they are paying for.”
It’s an experience hotels are also helping guests take home. “It’s about finding products and brands that will leave a positive impression,” says Tremblay. The bedding collection from Le Germain Hotels, for example, is available for purchase at eight Simons stores across Canada, as well as online. She notes that choosing a product, not only for rational reasons but also emotional ones, is a trend hoteliers should keep in mind for 2017. “We hope when guests do bring their amenity home, it takes them back to a pleasurable experience with us, creating that emotional connection”
More customization across brand families and closer alignment of the amenity line to the brand’s overall messaging are what Sheahan sees as top trends for the coming year. “Environmental considerations will continue to grow in importance and brands will offer a range of options to hotels that meet standards to allow for better customization to the hotel’s guest demographic.”
Volume 28, Number 8
Written By Carolyn Grisold